By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
In all the years I've been working with witnesses, I have yet to meet the perfect one. I've met some darned good ones, but everyone has a weakness. The question is whether they will let those weaknesses degrade their performance on the stand. Practically speaking, there are some weaknesses that can be minimized but never completely eliminated. After all, you cannot --- and would not want to -- change someone's personality just to get better testimony. So, when dealing with a weakness that is not likely to be completely excised in a preparation session, and will instead accompany the witness onto the stand, the challenge is to reframe that weakness so that it, at least, does not threaten witness confidence. One such reframing is to focus on the silver lining -- or the positive aspects of a negative trait.
Based on some new research, a focus on the silver lining isn't just an optimistic wish, it is a self-persuasion strategy with real benefits. According to the study (Wesnousky, Oettingen & Gollwitzer, 2015), most of us are able to come up with silver linings in response to our own perceived personality weaknesses. And, what's more, reminding ourselves of those benefits has a measurable effect in improving performance on related tasks. That finding has some clear implications for witnesses who often see testimony as a pretty negative experience. By drawing the witness's attention to the silver lining, attorneys and consultants can help the witness feel better and do better at that challenging task.